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US Can't Force Countries to Accept Non-Recyclable Imports: UN

  • The oceans are filled with at least eight million tonnes of plastic — of which one third of the global production is non-recyclable.

    The oceans are filled with at least eight million tonnes of plastic — of which one third of the global production is non-recyclable. | Photo: EFE

Published 10 May 2019

According to the new anti-pollution resolution, smaller developing nations have the right to refuse imports based on plastic content.

World leaders will be able to refuse imports of unrecyclable, polluting plastics per new regulation introduced by the United Nations (U.N.) Friday during the final day of the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) in Geneva, Switzerland.


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“For far too long developed countries like the U.S. and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean,” said Dr. Sara Brosche, a science advisor with the IPEN (International POPs Elimination Network an international NGO dedicated to eliminating organic pollutants. They cheered the initiative.

Proposed by Norway, the decision empowers smaller nations to request product information and mixed plastic waste content prior to accepting new deals and even before goods leave the docks.

"With this amendment, many developing countries will, for the first time, have information about plastic wastes entering their country and be empowered to refuse plastic waste dumping," said Brosche.

Among the actions adopted are:

  • The removal or reduction of hazardous chemicals found in plastic production.
  • Obligating plastic producers to fund the cost of waste management and clean-up as well as setting certain collection goals.
  • Minimizing and preventing plastic waste generation.
  • Significantly reducing the production of single-use plastics.

“One-third of global plastic production is non-recyclable and at least eight million tonnes of plastic flows unabated into our oceans and water bodies each year ... the world is choking on plastic,” Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of U.N. Environment said.

The new U.N. anti-pollution initiative was well received by all except Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., and the chemical and plastic industrial giants.

The list of prohibited products is in the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal — a decision ratified by the European Union and all U.N. members except Haiti and the U.S.

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